I’ll admit when we first decided to include a day at Hollywood Studios in our park plans, I wasn’t convinced we needed an entire day for it. In the past, MGM, as it used to be called, really seemed more like a half-day park. There have been quite a few changes since those days and I wasn’t sure if those changes, and the addition of Toy Story Land, would make that much of a difference.
We learned about Toy Story Land about halfway through our planning for this big family trip, but we weren’t really sure how the opening would affect our time in the park. We were scheduled to go at the end of August, when most of the US schools were back in session, save New England, which doesn’t start until the first week of September after Labor Day. We figured the crowds would still be relatively light, but there was no way of knowing how much of a shift might occur.
I planned our day with the new attractions’ potential for popularity in mind and once the revised FastPass+ tiers were released, we had some big decisions to make. None of us had ever been on the existing Toy Story Mania ride, which we knew was already pretty popular and plagued with long wait times. Discovering that all Toy Story Land rides were in the same tier was really disappointing, even though it made sense. We quickly decided Slinky Dog would be the hardest FastPass+ to get and put it on the top of our FastPass+ wish list and planned to rope drop the whole area.
I am so glad we planned that way!
On our way home from Epcot the night before, we realized that Extra Magic Hours were added to Hollywood Studios for that day. So much for sleeping in a bit! Even though I scored Slinky Dog Dash FastPasses for all eight of us, we all agreed if we wanted a chance on any of the other Toy Story Land rides without long lines, we needed to rope drop Extra Magic Hours.
We were all feeling the long days by then, so Miss O, Hubs and I made the first shuttle, but my in-laws decided to meet us there. During our trip, construction on the skyway was in full swing, so there was an extra-long walk from the drop off area to the main gate. We still made it with plenty of time to get a PhotoPass picture of the three of us with the Sorcerer Mickey topiaries outside. While we were waiting for my in-laws to join us, Daisy appeared out of nowhere and Miss O lost her mind. She’d been hugging every plush Daisy doll in every gift shop in every park so far. I wasn’t sure she’d go for it, but there was only one kid in line, so I said, “Do you want to meet Daisy while we wait for Mr. A?”
She could not get there fast enough and it was an amazing way to start the day at a park I wasn’t completely sure of.
Once we were together again, we paused for a picture in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, charged back towards Toy Story Land and walked right on to Toy Story Mania. It was so much fun! That is easily one of my favorite rides and we debated getting right back on, but we knew we needed to queue up for Alien Swirling Saucers if we wanted to beat the heat and the long line. By the time we got there it was a posted ten-minute wait that grew to 15 while we were in line. Alien Swirling Saucers was another super fun ride, but I’m glad my Sister-in-law passed on it. She has a tricky back and that cart whips from side to side pretty quickly on the turns. I’m not sure she would’ve made it.
After the rides, we were pretty hungry. We knew we had Slinky Dog FastPasses for the afternoon, so we decided to find some breakfast. I was able to get a Breakfast Bowl at Woody’s Lunch Box that was gluten-free with tater tots (NOM!) and tofu instead of eggs. Bonus vegan meal! It was delicious and very satisfying. I also grabbed a three pack of Mini Babybel® Snack Cheese for later. Unfortunately, Mr. A couldn’t eat anything on their menu, so we headed back into the main park to find something.
Once we secured food for everyone, we found a bench and had a morning picnic watching other families get their photos taken and feeling so grateful we made it in early that day. As we ate, we discussed Trials of the Jedi and if we though the kids would be up for it. They were both absolutely on board, so we finished eating and hustled up toward the Indiana Jones show to get tickets.
At that point, our park plan became less of a plan and more of a checklist. Our Trials of the Jedi check in time was 1:00 PM for a 2:00 PM show. We had a half hour before our FastPass+ window for Star Tours opened up and we were standing right in front of Path of the Jedi, so we decided to check it off the list. I should mention that none of us were dying to go on the Tower of Terror, so that wasn’t really a big draw for us. Miss O has seen every Star Wars movie, save Rogue One, so it wasn’t a big deal for her. I probably wouldn’t spend time on it again, but it did get us set up for Star Tours, so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
Star Tours was way more fun and absolutely worth it, even if we really didn’t need the FastPass+ for it. We walked right on and Miss O loved it! It started raining while we were on the ride, so we waited it out in the gift shop and the kids built some droids. After a quick photo on the speeder bike, we hustled to make the next Frozen Sing-A-Long show, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.
We just made it inside before the doors closed and managed to get pretty good seats. I knew Miss O would love it, but I wasn’t sure about Mr. A. I don’t think he’s seen Frozen or cares to. He’s such a sweetheart, though If Miss O wasn’t sold already on the sing-a-long, she was all in when it started snowing! I’ve never heard her squeal like that! Hands down, that is one of my favorite memories of this trip.
Right after the show, Olaf makes an appearance around the corner. I wasn’t sure she’d want to meet him because she didn’t seem to want to meet any of the others, but she had just tried to squeeze the life out of Daisy, so I figured I’d give it a shot. She practically dragged Mr. A into the line with her and about 10 minutes later, we were watching Olaf melt from all the warm hugs.
Pro Tip: Olaf doesn’t talk or sign autographs. In the queue, talk to the cast member and they’ll give you an adorable “signature” card.
We were ready to check in for our lunch reservation at the 50’s Prime Time Café, where we met my mother-in-law and a friend she’s known forever. My father in-law was taking care of himself and enjoying a day of rest in the midst of our jam-packed itinerary. I respect that. We planned this trip knowing we all had limits and we needed to honor them.
We had a great time at the 50’s Prime Time Café. If you haven’t been yet, the theme is definitely 50’s kitsch and the staff gets to be a little sassy, but all in good fun. Our waiter was kind enough to not target Miss O, who was having a meltdown over not getting the dot-to-dot on her Vamperina placemat perfect, and clearly needed food. He brought her two more! He was hilarious and he even put my mother-in law’s friend in timeout! The food was better than I expected and we all got another round of Electric Lemonades and Magical Star Cocktails.
We said goodbye to our section at the Café and hustled back up to Trial of the Jedi to get Mr. A and Miss O checked in for Jedi Training. They both did so well and it was an amazing memory for both of them. I was so proud!
After the show, we made our way over to the Muppet 3D. Miss O doesn’t have a lot of experience with the Muppets, but Mr. A was all about it. I have very fond memories of Pigs in Space and adore Gonzo, so I hoped it would at least be reminiscent of that good time fun feeling. The show was ok and Miss O thought the bunny was the best part, so at least it wasn’t too bad all around. I’m not sure I’d spend a lot of time on it in future.
We did have hope for the Voyage of the Little Mermaid in Animation Courtyard, though we knew it would be tough to beat the Journey of the Little Mermaid ride at Magic Kingdom. As we entered Animation Courtyard, all of the Disney Junior characters were at their stations for meet and greets, but Miss O had no interest. We just missed the Little Mermaid show, so we headed into the Star Wars Launch Bay.
The Launch Bay was pretty interesting, but only if you’re mad for Star Wars like Hubs. We had all recently seen the Solo movie and there were real and replica props on display, which was fun. I’m also a big fan of Sabine Wren from Rebels, so I may have gotten excited to see her helmet on display as well. Unfortunately, Miss O wanted nothing to do with meeting Kylo Ren, Chewbacca or BB8, so our visit wasn’t terribly long. I still wish I had at least gotten my picture with BB8. Next time…
By the time we left the Launch Bay, the next Voyage of the Little Mermaid show was seating. We got side seats about three rows back and had a great view. Unfortunately, the show fell a little flat. Miss O’s favorite part was the laser show on the ceiling, and she definitely liked the ride in Magic Kingdom better. Oh well, they can’t all be winners!
At that point we had really seen all we wanted to see and our FastPass+ window for Slinky Dog Dash didn’t open for almost another hour. As we exited the Little Mermaid show, we noticed the crowd gathering for the March of the First Order, so we hurried over to watch. Our view wasn’t great, but we caught them just as they come in to the Echo Lake area and did a short drill before turning around and marching back. It was just enough to perk up the kids for a moment, but I’m not sure it would’ve held their interest for too long.
Miss O wasn’t changing her mind about Slinky Dog being too high and too fast for her liking. She didn’t want to meet Mickey and Minnie at Commissary Lane and neither of us wanted to do the Tower of Terror. Had Miss O been in a better mood, I probably would have offered her Beauty and the Beast Live Onstage as our last show at Hollywood Studios or gone in search of the Character Palooza to see if she wanted to meet any of the characters out for the afternoon, but she really didn’t look up for it and I didn’t want to push her.
We decided not to wait the four and a half hours it would have taken to wait for Fantasmic! And opted to go back to our hotel for a break. By the time we got back to the Art of Animation Resort, I was beat, but Miss O was all about the Big Blue Pool, that she hadn’t gotten to try out at all yet. She and Hubs got changed and had a nice break in the water while I took a quiet moment to myself and started packing to make the last morning a bit easier on myself.
We really needed that break! This is where we should have stopped, but hindsight is… well, we all know how hindsight is.
Instead of continuing on my rare streak of reasonable thinking, once Hubs and Miss O returned from the pool, I asked about dinner. Somewhere in that conversation, we ended up with the brilliant idea of going over the Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks, since it was the only night we’d be able to see the “regular show,” Happily Ever After. We were early enough to scout out some decent seats and have a picnic dinner while we waited. Makes sense, right?
We made it over to the Magic Kingdom and could finally say we used our park hopper tickets for two parks in one day. We also managed to get some great seats up close to the castle. That’s when things started to fall flat.
Hubs was desperately trying to fight hunger while attempting to find a restaurant within reasonable walking distance that offered mobile ordering. Miss O was vehemently against consuming a hot dog from the closest place, Casey’s Corner, and I really did not want to risk them not having a gluten free bun and me being stuck with a sad hot dog for dinner. Hubs, being the fixer that he is, gallantly offered to go to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Tomorrowland and get me a burger that had a confirmed gluten-free option. This is right about when things really went south.
Hunger, fatigue and impatience do not mix, y’all, and they all came to a head about 45-minutes before the first show. When we first claimed our fantastic spot, I spread out Miss O’s hoodie on the ground so she could be more comfortable. As my patience with dinner thinned, I turned my head to the left and realized my exhausted daughter was curled up on that same hoodie, halfway between sleep and desperately trying to stay awake.
I was not going to be that parent. No way. My baby was so tired she was going to sleep through the very fireworks we were working so hard to make happen.
We knew our next day would be pretty long with our second day at Magic Kingdom and a night at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and she was clearly no longer having fun. I looked at hubs and told him we had to leave. I nudged Miss O, asked her to get up so we could go, then turned to the couple behind us and told them we were leaving and they could have our spots if the wanted them.
By the time we got the shuttle, Miss O was sound asleep on Hubs and we knew we made the right decision, albeit a tad late. Hubs carried her all the way off the shuttle and back the room. As I tucked her in, Hubs went in search of food at the Landscape of Flavors. Lesson learned.
Hollywood Studios definitely had more than I thought it would have, but I still think for our family it’s a half day park, even with Toy Story Land. Once the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is complete, I may change my mind on that, but for now, I still consider it a great morning in a park, with some great down time for the rest of the day.